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Clov is the submissive Knight to Hamm's King; he staggers around erratically, performing errands and letting Hamm virtually ride him (Hamm pushes him around on his chair). Nevertheless, he stands up for himself at times, even going so far as to hit Hamm with his toy dog. He is less hostile than Hamm, but he harbors a deeper sadness. While Hamm never had anything, it seems, Clov seems to have lost something dear to him; the story Hamm tells about the beggar and his child may be a reference to Clov's father and Clov (Beckett was ambiguous about this in conversation). No matter what the situation, it is irrefutable that at some point Hamm took Clov in and became a father figure to him. While Clov wonders repeatedly why he stays with Hamm, his lifelong sense of obligation is one apparent reason out of a possible three. He shares another major reason with Hamm; both men are afraid to be alone, despite their constant declarations otherwise. The final reason, which Hamm offers at the end, is that Clov has compassion. Though Clov shatters the illusion that mercy is one of life's consolations in his final monologue, it may indeed be that from the wasteland of their post-apocalyptic endgame he has retained some humanity.
Clov's other main similarity to Hamm is his fear that existence is cyclical; he kills (or tries to kill) the flea and rat, potential regenerators, and he wants to kill the boy at the end, the "potential procreator." He opens the play by announcing, "it's finished," and brings up a question that underscores the play's ideas of repetition: when does an accumulation of distinct grains become a heap? In Clov's view, since each grain is always a distinct grain, then what we call a heap is really an "impossible heap," since it is made up of those distinct grains. In the same vein, a life is not really a life, but a sequence of moments—until, of course, death closes off those moments and the moments can be viewed as a single unit. For Clov, these moments are simply repetitive, part of a repetitive existence, and finality is impossible—he laughs at Hamm's suggestion that they are beginning to make meaning in their world since a repetitive, cyclical world is in a constant state of flux and conclusion is unattainable. This lack of finality and the fusion of beginnings and endings is the ultimate reason for his inability to leave Hamm at the end of the play: he cannot leave, for leaving would imply that there is such a thing as ending one's tenure in one place and beginning a new one elsewhere.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Endgame!